We've had a lot of Jesper Fast(h) updates in the past few days. And it's warrented. He's an intriguing prospect and the Rangers could sure use someone of his ability on the roster even though he is likely to start in the AHL. Fast implied two days ago that he would like to come over to North America now but is waiting to hear what the Rangers want to do. Larry Brooks and Katie Strang both seperately cited sources that claim the Rangers want him to come over now. While there are never guarantees, where there is smoke there is fire, and in this case the smoke signals seem clear; Fast wants to come over, and the Rangers want Fast to come over. So the happy marriage is inevitable, right?
What Brooks and Strang also mention is that the Swedish Ice Hockey Association has to clear Fast's move to North America. And while both articles do mention this, they might not appropriately highlight exactly how problematic this might actually be. The NHL has an agreement with Sweden which basically gives Sweden authority to block the transfer of anyone registered on their World Championship roster. Especially with the NHL season ending later than previously and therefore limiting the number of players who will be available, Fast is a virtual lock.
The World Hockey Championship begins May 3rd. The NHL regular season ends April 27th. That's a tight squeeze as is, and assuming (hoping) the Rangers make the playoffs he would pretty much miss it altogether. Even if not, the Rangers would likely send him down to Connecticut for their playoff run, which could interfere as well. EVEN IF all of this is avoided (unlikely), Sweden might very well still want to keep him around for tune-up games and preperations prior to the actual start of the tournament.
Enter Peter Forsberg. Now the vice president of the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, his stance on the issue is pretty clear: "We need to keep our players here if we are to build our own World Cup team." Tommy Boustedt, who has the title of development chief for the SIHA, explains further, essentially saying that the rules are clear and the Rangers will have to abide by them.
This isn't going to be the end of it. Rangers Head European Scout Anders Hedberg is likely going to be in constant talks with the necessary parties. As one of the first Swedes to play in the NHL as well as a recent inductee into the Swedish Hockey Hall of Fame, you would think he has some pull.
The Rangers want to introduce him to North American hockey and the system the team plays immediately. And having him as an option for the NHL doesn't hurt, either. Sweden understandbly wants to keep one of their best domestic players for a tournament that is taken very seriously in Europe. It's going to be a complicated discussion but one that Sweden apparently has ultimate authority over. With all of that has gone on this season, it would be nice for the Rangers to catch a break and get this minor victory.
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